The Power of One
During the Easter holiday of Peekay's form three year, Doc suggests a twenty mile hike across the mountains. Peekay is anxious about Doc's health, since the man is already past eighty. Doc diverts Peekay's fears by informing him that he believes there may be some limestone in the cliffs that could afford some geological splendors. They pack blankets, billy cans, a hurricane lamp, metal spikes, a "torch" (flashlight), and food. They hike all day and pitch camp in a "kloof" for the night. That night Doc expounds on the inability of music to capture the essence of Africa-only drums can duplicate its rhythm. Peekay wakes at dawn the following day and makes coffee for Doc. He enjoys the sights and sounds of the forest-the mists, and the barking of baboons. They continue to climb and Doc notices the rock striations and gets excited about the prospect of finding limestone and, with it, a cave. They climb for three hours, until the path will not allow them to proceed any further. They find dolomite and water, signs that there should be a cave. Peekay slides along a ledge on the cliff-face in order to search, and he peers directly into a cave. Doc is very pleased with himself. They use their metal spikes to make a rope handrail to work their way across the ledge and into the cave. At the back of the cave they discover a giant chamber of crystal stalactites and stalagmites which looks "like an illustration from a fairy tale." Doc points out that the crystal formations must have taken at least three hundred thousand years to form. He intimates that he would like to be buried in the cave to become a part of the "crystal cave of Africa." Peekay does not like Doc talking about his death. Death, in his experience, is a "brutal accident."
Doc was calm and reason and order, and the kind of death I knew had no part in the expectations for our relationship.
Doc makes Peekay promise not to tell anyone about the cave. As they return to their camp, Peekay watches the full moon rise above the De Kaap Valley.
With Doc and Peekay's disappearance into the natural world, the African bush, Peekay's narrative style becomes less linear and more lyrical. He spends much of the chapter vividly describing the scenery and sounds of the valleys and mountains. His illustrations of the "giant tree ferns smudged and then blackened into darkness" is complemented by Doc's monologue about the music of Africa. Africa clearly has an unfathomable aura for Doc-he admits in this chapter that although he composed the "Concerto of the Great Southland," it is not his music but the music of "the People." Chapter Nineteen slows the pace of the novel and shows the simple pleasures of life-Peekay roasting sweet potatoes for dessert, or stirring condensed milk into a steaming cup of coffee. The theme of the many faces of death is central to the chapter. It becomes a sign of the perverse nature of apartheid that Peekay has become so accustomed to brutal deaths that he cannot accept the idea of Doc's natural death.
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